I’m sure you’re aware, dry bags are used to keep your kit, clothing and other sensitive items safe from getting wet. The clue’s in the name. They’re made from a variety of materials – some are tough, some are lightweight, and you fold the roll-top over (at least three-times) to make sure their seal is watertight. You know the drill.
As far as I know, dry bags first became popular with kayakers and canoeists before finding popularity with other outdoor enthusiasts, such as climbers, hillwalkers, and fans of wild camping. And while they might not be the most exciting thing on an adventurer’s kit list – you could argue they’re one of the most important.
And there’s more to a dry bag than first meets the eye. They’re one of those items which have a myriad of uses outside of their intended purpose. In this blog we reveal some alternative ways to use your dry bags on your next outdoor adventure or wild camping trip.
A Water Bucket:
Dry bags make great buckets. If you’re wild camping, you can take an empty dry bag to a river or stream, fill it with water, and take it back to camp. You’ll then have litres of water you can use as and when you need, saving you having to make return trips to the original source.
You’ll still have to treat or boil the water. However, the unique roll-fold closure on dry bags means your dry bag bucket even has a handle to help you carry it back from the river. Not only that, the handle can then be used to hang your new water tank from a branch.
A Kettle Bell:
Need a good way to stay fit while out in the field? Dry Bags can be used as a kettle-bell and sandbag style training. We wouldn’t recommend filling them with rocks or stones – just in case you puncture your dry bag – but filling dry bags with water will give you enough weight for your workout. What’s more, one liter of water roughly weighs about one kilogram, so it’s easy to know how much you’re lifting. For instance, a full eight litre dry bag will weigh around the 8kg mark (around 18lbs).
A Washing Machine:
When it comes to alternative uses for dry bags, one of the most impressive ways you can use them has to be as a washing machine.
All you do is place your dirty clothes inside your dry bag and fill it with enough water to cover them. Next, add some eco-friendly soap (or a little charcoal from your fire) and scrub the clothes in the dry bag by hand.
Then, close the dry bag’s roll-fold (with clothes and wash-water still inside) and give it a good shake. Finally, empty out the dirty water, and repeat the process with clean water (minus the soap or charcoal of course) to rinse your clothes clean. This is a super-handy tip for anyone going on a long expedition.
A Laundry Bag:
Staying with the theme of washing – if you’ve ever been on an expedition that’s lasted more than a few weeks, you’ll know some of your clothes become rather ‘ripe’. Because dry bags are (to all intents and purposes) air-tight and waterproof, they also make great laundry baskets.
Dry bags are a good place to store these dirty clothes, because bad odour can’t escape. Not only does this make for a more pleasant experience round camp for anyone sharing a tent, it also helps prevent the smell of your dirty clothes permeating other items.
A Multipurpose Camp Mat:
When wild camping, on arrival at where I’ll be making camp, one of the first things I use my dry bag for is as something to kneel on. OK – so it’s not a particularly mind-blowing alternative use for your dry bags – but it’s one I use a lot.
During particularly wet and miserable conditions, dry bags can be placed on the ground and used as something to kneel on while you start a fire, hammer in tent-pegs, or carry out other duties around camp. They can also be used as an alternative to Sit Mats, and are a great way to stop yourself getting wet and muddy.
Water Buoys and Pot Markers:
Because dry bags hold air and float so well, they make great buoys and floats which you can use to mark waypoints or other spots in the water. This application for your dry bags could be used during river-based games while kayaking – or to mark traps, pots and lines while fishing in the wild.
For Collecting Firewood:
As well as something to kneel on in the wet while starting your fire, dry bags can be used to help you collect firewood to burn. Rather than scouting an area and carrying the wood you find back to camp in your arms, you can attach para-cord to the clips on dry bags, sling them over your shoulder, and place sticks and branches in them.
It’s a much more efficient way to collect fuel to burn and it keeps your hands free, which means you’re less likely to injury yourself if you stumble, as you can break your fall. I’d only recommend using the much sturdier vinyl dry bags for this use (not the lighter nylon) and be careful not to cause any damage. But it’s another very practical alternative use for them.
An Air Pillow:
Granted, you can buy dedicated Air Pillows for camping, and you’ve probably come across the idea of stuff sacks and dry bags being used as pillows before. I’m guessing you’ve even used stuff sacks and dry bags this way yourself. However, you probably make a pillows out of dry bags and stuff sacks the same way: by shoving them full of socks and clothes.
However, empty dry bags, filled with trapped air make a much comfier cushion and a better night’s sleep than a stuff sack or dry bag filled with clothes, through which you can feel zippers, buttons and toggles poking you in the face. Dry bags have a unique ability to trap air, so next time you’re out wild camping try using it.
The jungle is one of the wettest environments on Earth. And with daily downpours and dangerous river-crossings to contend with, if you’re on an expedition there, you’ll want to take plenty of dry bags with you. And that’s a good thing, because as well as rivers and rain, you’re going to come across plenty of bugs and poisonous critters, too.
Many of these creepy-crawlies – such as spiders and scorpions – like to hide in boots over night, and deliver a deadly sting or bite to the unwary adventurer come morning. One way to avoid meeting this fate though, is to use dry bags to store your boots in overnight – thus preventing any unwanted guest in your Zamberland footwear.
A Flotation Device:
As we previously mentioned, you often have to contend with dangerous river-crossings in the Jungle. In fact, getting from one river bank to another is a problem you can come across in any outdoor environment (except maybe the desert). The good news is dry bags can help here, too.
Because they hold air, dry bags can be used as a flotation device to aid river crossings. As you can see in this picture taken from our previous blog post 10 Expert Survival Tips From Back Country Survival, with air trapped inside dry bags offer excellent buoyancy. They can even be used to float back packs and equipment across rivers too.
A Bear Bag And Food Storage:
If you ever find yourself hiking or trekking in bear-country dry bags can be used to keep both your food and your camp safe. As you probably know, campers and people who live around bears can have run-ins with them because they’re often attracted by the scent of food.
Bears can smell food from up to 20 miles away. And if you place your food and provisions inside, the air-tight nature of dry bags goes a long way to stop enticing scents wafting through the woods and attracting them to your camp. You’ll need para-cord and a carabiner as well as your dry bag, but this video shows you the proper technique to use in order and keep curious or hungry bears from sniffing around camp.
And it’s not just bears. Although they’re cute, racoons are becoming more prevalent across Europe and causing more and more of a problem with people wild camping because they’re fond of stealing campers’ food too. Dry bags will help hide tempting smells from these woodland bandits too.
A Foot Pump For Sea-To-Summit Mats:
While most dry bags are quite simple affairs, some, like the Sea to Summit Air Stream Dry Sack, are ingeniously designed to let you use them as a pump. Once filled with air, the Air Stream’s 20 Litre capacity allows the dry bag to be used to inflate your sleeping mat with ease. They also make The Sea to Summit Jet Stream Pump Sack which – although it’s a Stuff Sack and not a Dry Bag – doubles as a pump too.
Sea to Summit’s Air Stream Dry Bags are easy to use and can be inflated with a single breath. They feature a valve which fits to most Sea to Summit sleeping mats, which can then generally be inflated in under three cycles of the dry bags being filled and emptied of air. Ideal after an exhausting trek.
Bonus Use For Dry Bags:
If you’ve read The Complete Guide to Down Insulation and use a down sleeping bag, you’ll understand just how important dry bags can be. In fact, we’d go so far as to say, they’re an essential item if you own a down sleeping bag or a down jacket.
That’s because down dislikes water a lot. In fact, water and damp can have a devastating affect on down’s ability to work as an insulator, so if you’re relying on a down jacket or sleeping bag to keep you warm make sure you keep it dry in a dry bag.
How Do You Use Your Dry Bags?
Do you know of any alternative ways to use dry bags? If so, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below. And don’t forget to share this article with your friend on social media so they can learn these alternative uses for dry bags too. As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to add a couple of dry bags to your existing kit – so take a look at our range of dry bags now.
Main Image – Adam Cornwell at www.AdamCornwell.com
Flotation Image – Taken on a course with Back Country Survival and used with their kind permission